Time for action

August 13, 2013


A MACABRE dance of death continues to grip the country. There is little hope that it will be stopped. Deaths have become mere statistics while the country is being turned into a killing field.

The killing of some 30 policemen in Quetta in a suicide bombing during a funeral and the death of 11 young boys in a terrorist attack at a football stadium in Karachi were perhaps the two most gruesome incidents highlighting the latest bloody wave of violence. Not a single day passes without terrorist strikes taking their toll.

From the storming of the D.I. Khan jail to the brutal slaughter of foreign mountaineers in the remote northern areas, the incidents illustrate the growing stridency of the militants and collapsing state authority. Even the country’s capital has virtually been under siege with the looming threat of a major terrorist attack. This is perhaps one of the most dangerous points in the country’s history. An implosion is waiting to happen, threatening the unity of the country.

Yet there seems to be no realisation on the part of our political leadership of the gravity of the situation. There are mere words of condemnation; there is no action. While the country has been drenched in blood the prime minister was away on a weeklong private trip to Saudi Arabia. There seems to be no urgency in dealing with the scourge threatening national security.

Confusion and dithering have gravely affected the nation’s response to this daunting challenge. The policy disarray in various state institutions has become more pronounced with the latest surge in terrorist violence. The prevailing inertia in the government and widening differences among the political parties ruling different provinces have resulted in complete policy paralysis, providing the militants the space and environment to operate more freely.

The audacious raid on the D.I. Khan jail and the escalation in targeted killings of policemen in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to a large extent are the result of the unwillingness of the new provincial government to take on the militants. The soft-pedalling of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government has led security agencies to lower their guard thus giving new impetus to militancy in the province.

Despite the intelligence report about the impending jail raid, the administration failed to take appropriate measures to prevent the attack. A demoralised and ill-equipped police and other civilian security agencies could hardly match the heavily armed and well-trained raiders.

Most appalling, however, is the callous attitude of the political leadership towards the victims of terrorism and the security personnel killed fighting the militants. The funeral of the policemen — many of them senior officers — killed in Quetta last week took place without any senior member of the provincial or central government attending it.

Perhaps, it is far worse in KP where dozens of policemen have been killed in targeted attacks by the militants over the past two months since the installation of the PTI-led government.

Unlike in the past during the Awami National Party government, let alone attending the funeral of policemen who have been killed, no minister even visits the venue of a terrorist attack. Since the outbreak of militant violence in the province, the police despite their few resources and lack of counterterrorism training have fought valiantly. They have been on the frontline in the battle against the Taliban in the province. Many high-ranking police officers are among those who have fallen victim to targeted killings.

But the morale of the KP police has now hit a new low under the PTI-Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) administration. Instead of strengthening the capacity of the police force, the ministers spout the mantra of ‘peace negotiations with the Taliban’ after each terrorist attack. KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak is not even willing to call the Taliban (who themselves have claimed responsibility for most terrorist attacks), an enemy.

How can one expect the police to defend the post when the administration appears so eager to make peace with the militants? Can one blame the prison guards and the policemen for not offering any resistance to the D.I. Khan jail attackers and for fleeing the scene and taking off their uniform? The present PTI-JI government seems to be reminiscent of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal rule that allowed the Taliban to expand their influence in the province.

What is most pitiable is that we don’t even honour and acknowledge the sacrifices of the officers and soldiers killed in the battlefield or in terrorist attacks. More than 4,000 soldiers including nine general officers have so far been killed battling the insurgents. But hardly ever have the country’s top political leaders bothered to condole with the families of those killed, let alone visited the battle zones.

It is left to the military to honour their martyrs. The annual Martyrs’ Day observed by the military is never attended by the top political leadership. At the ceremony, the table for the families of those killed becomes longer each year. How would they be feeling about the rants of some leading political figures that ‘it is not our war’? Certainly such a flawed narrative will not boost the morale of the young officers fighting the enemy in the treacherous tribal regions. If it is not our war then what are they fighting for?

With the spreading of militant violence the last thing Pakistan can afford at this point is to continue engaging in this inane debate of ‘whose war is it’. This becomes even more ridiculous as Pakistan’s own unity and integrity is under threat. The latest surge in terrorist attacks across the country should serve an eye-opener to political leaders still confused about the enemy. There is no time to lose as the country is fast sliding into chaos. The government must act before it is too late.

The writer is an author and journalist.


Twitter: @hidhussain